The Friends and Volunteers who have been associated with the Chapel for some time or who have a particular area of expertise usually take an interest in one area of the Chapel’s activities and maintenance. These vary from specialist cleaning to maintaining the bells to providing guided tours. Bigger projects which require a substantial amount of funding are undertaken. Previous ones have included the restoration of the 8 bells. Current and recent projects are detailed below.
The reredos on the East wall is the stone arched backdrop to the main altar. It was designed in 1852 by John Brown of Norwich, the Diocesan Surveyor, and built by a local mason, William Browne. In 1904 it was enhanced by the insertion of paintings by Hardman & Co into the niches. They depict Our Lord centrally with the Virgin Mary and St John on either side; St Nicholas is to the left, and Bishop William Turbus (the founder of the Chapel) to the right.
The whole has suffered from the effects of damp, resulting in crumbling of parts of the stone and flaking and loss of paint. The Friends Committee has employed a specialist stone conservator (Matthew Beesley) and a specialist paintings conservator (Polly Saltmarsh) to investigate, and recommend conservation treatment. These were reported to the AGM in 2017 and 2018. This has involved investigation of the wall and floor adjacent to the reredos to see whether changes can be made to reduce the damp and enable the reredos wall to dry; in March the cement-rich wall render and floor screeds were opened up and will be monitored for dampness and salts for a trial period before extending similar work.
As the outcome of work by Polly in January and again in March, the flaking on the canvas paintings has now been stabilised and the surface of all the paintings has been given a temporary protective facing of fine tissue and removable adhesive. Once work on the stonework has been completed, the facings will be removed, the paintings will be cleaned and the distortions flattened. Below the canvas paintings there were also two boards on each side screwed into the stonework and painted. The two larger boards, in blue with a gold pattern, have been removed to studio and are being assessed for minimal conservation work.
The next stages of this work will require financial assistance, by donations and grants, since the action required is beyond the Friends’ current reserved funds.
After 50 years a 17ft tall canopy over the font is in St Nicholas’ Chapel again. The Friends of the Chapel purchased and returned it to Lynn, and on 6thand 7th November 2018 it was rebuilt and is now open to view.
“Although the glory of the Chapel lies in its medieval construction and artistry, this striking piece of woodwork is also part of the story. It is big and dramatic, and looks in its rightful place back here” said Adrian Parker, chairman of the Friends. “The names of the men who fitted it in 1902 were hidden inside”.
Baptism was only allowed in the Chapel after 1627, and the original canopy was probably made about 50 years later but then broken up in the 1840s. This copy of the original was made in 1902, and paid for by E.M. Beloe, a notable local solicitor and historian.
The Vicar in the 1960’s disposed of it, and it next appeared 30 years later in a private museum in Downham Market, from where it was purchased by Westland Antiques Ltd. in 2010. As Westland were moving, the risk was that the structure would be sold in pieces to make room for other stock. The ‘cost’ price represented their expenditure in buying and conserving it.
The Friends of St Nicholas’ Chapel arranged for its return, which was funded by donations from the public and grants from the Audrey Muriel Stratford Trust, the King’s Lynn Town Guides, and the Cottam Will Trust.
It was re-erected by staff of Chas D Allflatt Ltd, King’s Lynn
Description : a hexagon of columns around the font, supports the shelf to rest and baptise a baby; then a four-poster canopy is over the font cover (itself like a market cross); above that is a cupola with the counterweights, and a smaller lantern, globe and spire right on top.